Saturday, June 27, 2015

"Detroit" ☼ ☼

Since 2009, critics and theater-goers have been heaping praise upon "Detroit," Lisa D'Amour's Obie-Winning show of that year, when it was selected Best New American Play. Written in the midst of a financial meltdown, issues of economic dislocation and the disappearance of traditional American middle-class life are in the background at all times.

Our four characters are treading water and sinking fast. Ben and Mary (Jeff Garrett
and Amy Resnick) appear to have a normal suburban life with a house and a yard and lawn furniture. They have invited their newly-met neighbors, Kenny and Sharon (Patrick Kelly Jones and Luisa Frasconi), to a backyard barbecue.

Conversation reveals that Kenny and Sharon have only recently met in a rehab facility and are practically destitute. At the same time, Ben has lost his job as a bank officer and Mary is trying to hold the house together while ignoring her own serious alcohol problem.

Times are tough. Of the four, we are most drawn to Sharon, who is an emotional wreck but easy to identify with. Her vivid stream-of-consciousness monologues about drug dependency ("when I wake up in the morning, the only thing I think about is how much I want my pipe") show us how desperate is her situation. Her female counterpoint Mary is mostly played for jokes by Amy Resnick, while Mary's husband Ben is a bit over-the-top in his bemused reaction to the circus unfolding in front of him. The younger Kenny is clearly a no-goodnik and gets worse as the play chugs forward. As a result, Sharon is the one character of the four about whom we care enough to invest any emotional energy, and her fate is inconsequential to the story's resolution.

As for the ending, the reviewer's wife feels there is hope for redemption implied. However you may take it, "Detroit," which is called "Funny as Hell" on the program cover, is decidedly disturbing.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Detroit" Two Stars, one each for Luisa Frasconi's evocative performance and for Cliff Carruthers's original musical cues during the lengthy scene changes. Although somewhat long (100 minutes) for a show with no intermission, the show never lags. We are happy the women make it home from the camping trip. Or so it seems at the time.

Aurora Theatre
2081 Addison Street, Berkeley
EXTENDED through July 26

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